This is an updated and more detailed version of the End Of Session synopsis that came out in June. Working with many of my General Assembly colleagues representing the southern suburbs, we developed and passed a budget which restored vital funding to public education, public safety and human services without raising a single penny of taxes, despite the disingenuous drone from those who would denigrate our state.
The new state budget which took into effect, July 1, 2018 creates a $15 million surplus that will be used to pay down old bills. We also unanimously passed out of the House an additional $1 billion to pay down the Governor’s backlog of old bills. Unfortunately, the backlog of bills was preventable had the Governor signed or even line item vetoed the three budgets that the General Assembly sent to him the last three years. So, things are markedly improving as we attempt to reverse the damage that inaction has done.
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State Representative, 38th District
For a PDF version of this legislative update, please click HERE.
Increased Funding For K-12 Education
The historic “Evidence Based Model” which took effect August 31, 2017 establishes EBM as the primary source for elementary and secondary education. Because of the new law, the FY2019 budget provides for $350 in new funding. In 2015, Illinois received a $80 million Preschool Expansion Grant from the federal government requiring the state to contribute $50 million each year for 5 years. The $50 million requirement was provided this year. We also boosted higher education funding by $60 million and created a new $25 million merit-based financial aid program for students.
Elementary and Secondary Education Highlights:
- Maintenance of student transportation proration at FY18 level
- $15 million for after school programs
- Improvements to the EBM freeing up funding to needier school districts
Higher Education Highlights
- 2% increase in operations for public universities
- Level funding for MAP grants, and allowing a new option for 4-year grants
- $25 million for AIM HIGH scholarship program
- Restoration of funding to FY18 levels of those scholarship and education lines zeroed out in the Governor’s introduced budget
Critical Services Restored That Governor Rauner Had Previously Cut
We cut spending on high-paid consultants and expensive, duplicative IT systems at state agencies in order to reverse the Governor’s cuts to education programs, health care, child care, and senior services, including:
- Full funding for the Community Care Program, which helps seniors stay in their homes and provides lifesaving care for elderly residents.
- $75 million to fund affordable child care for working families.
- Full funding for breast cancer screenings, domestic violence shelters and other lifesaving services for women in need.
- Pay raises for frontline caregivers who provide nursing care for the elderly and children with developmental disabilities.
Other Programs Which Were Restored In This Year’s Budget
- Arts programs, public television and public radio
- Job training funds
- Economic development funds restored
- $2 million in funding for Special Olympics
- Restoration of funding in the Human Services Budget for immigrant/refugee programs, homeless youth services, Autism Program, Teen Reach, Summer Jobs for Youth, Infant Mortality prevention, Children’s Place, Addiction Prevention, and others
- Restoration of wage increases for frontline workers in aging, disability, home services, mental health, substance abuse, etc.
- Fully funded HIV/AIDS, IBCCP and African-American AIDS Response programs
- Project Ceasefire, Bullying Prevention Program and community based violence prevention programs cut by the Governor are restored
Increased funding for Executive Ethics Commission/Executive Inspector General
This year, we increased funding for these agencies to protect citizens and state employees from mismanagement and harassment.
Selected Bills That I Have Sponsored or Co-sponsored in the 100th General Assembly
Equal Rights Amendment Ratification
Illinois became the 37th State to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment. After a long contentious debate, I voted in favor of the legislation. The resolution passed out of the House with a vote of 72 yays and 45 nays.
Prevent the Governor From “Offshoring” Employee Salaries
Dubbed the Truth in Hiring Act, the bill would end the current practice to put employees in the Governor’s office on the payroll of other state agencies, a practice which has had the effect of concealing the true size of his budget. For example, Governor Rauner’s executive office budget this year is $4.9 million and lists 44 staffers. However, Comptroller Susana Mendoza indicates, an additional 58 people are doing work that should be billed to the executive office budget but instead are having their salaries paid by different state agencies. Together, those staffers are paid about $5.5 million, making Rauner’s executive office budget more than twice as large as it appears to be on paper, according to Mendoza’s records. Signed into law – Public Act 100-0655
Honoring Veterans Who Lost Their Lives Due to Legionnaires Disease
Senate Bill 2481 increases the awards cap from $100,000 to $2 million in tort cases before the Court of Claims, and includes a specific effective date, July 1, 2015 that allows victims of the Quincy Veterans Home Legionnaires Disease outbreak to recover damages. At the time that the Illinois awards cap was set – tied for lowest in the nation – gasoline was 36 cents per gallon. This bill does not automatically award the grieving families anything. They would still have to file a lawsuit and win. But if they win their lawsuit, the court would be able to have a larger range to consider for the award. We could then believe that these heroes’ lives, although priceless, are worth more than $100,000 to their families that the present cap allows. The Governor amendatorily vetoed the bill on Friday evening, August 24th.
Sale of the Thompson Center:
As Chief Sponsor, I created the framework for the sale of the Thompson Center last year. This historic, but anachronistic building can be sold for millions of dollars and return to the tax rolls. Taxpayers were protected by ensuring that potential developers bear all the costs of lease acquisitions, impact fees and associates costs. The bill also protects one of the most heavily used CTA stations. The bill passed along partisan lines. The Governor cannot sell the Thompson Center until this bill is signed.
South Suburban Airport
There have been some erroneous and misinformed public statements made about the South Suburban Airport recently. I just want to get the record straight for you as the person who passed the bill making the SSA law of the land in June of 2013. “Resurrected” was a word that was used about the SSA. You can’t resurrect something that never died. Since its inception, progress has been made on the airport. 85% of the land has been purchased by the state for Phase 1. Two large parcels were purchased just this past June. The beautiful general aviation airport (Bult Field) that will be part of the SSA was purchased in 2014 and continues to be operational. The only hold up is a final study that needs to be conducted by the FAA. That study is ongoing and once completed, the “Record of Decision” (‘go’ or ‘no-go’) will be made by the U.S. Department of Transportation. So you see, there is nothing to be resurrected, because progress has never stopped. If you want to know more about this or other major transportation projects I helped to implement (I57/I294 interchange, CTA Red Line extension, Metra improvements) please do not hesitate to contact my office.